HICKORY, N.C. — A newly retired U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet was delivered on Friday to the low mountains of North Carolina for display at the Hickory Aviation Museum.
Former Blue Angels solo pilot CDR Frank Weisser flew the thirty-year-old F/A-18C Hornet across the blue skies of Hickory. Greeted by hundreds of onlookers, Weisser performed three passes prior to touching down at 12:37 p.m. EST.
As the aircraft taxied toward museum officials, two Hickory fire trucks provided a water cannon salute. Weisser guided the retiring jet underneath as applause broke out.
“We are thrilled to have the Hickory Aviation Museum and its incredible collection on display at the Hickory Regional Airport,” Hickory Airport Manager Terry Clark said. “The addition of Blue Angel 5 will certainly attract more people to come and appreciate all the aviation museum has to offer.”
Fueled by Blue Angels History
Known as Blue Angel 5, the twin-engine supersonic aircraft will be placed on the flight line outside the museum. This F/A-18Cs last operational flight was in October by the Blue Angels.
The blue and gold aircraft is no. 162411, and carries a storied past. This F/A-18C flew combat missions during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. The museum states the aircraft also spent the 1990s at NAS Miramar in California.
The Hornet was delivered to the Blue Angels in 2009, and served in the squadron’s delta formation.
The jet’s final public flights in 2020 included extended flyovers of major U.S. cities to honor first responders. On May 12, LCDR Brandon Hempler piloted this aircraft with the Blue Angels in flyovers of Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit.
This Blue Angels jet arrived honoring a fallen Blue Angels pilot. The name of LCDR Stuart Powrie has been placed under the jet’s canopy.
Stu served as the squadron’s opposing solo pilot in 1980-81, and later rose to lead solo. In February 1982, while training at NAF El Centro, Stu’s A-4F Skyhawk stalled and crashed. Powrie will again be remembered as guests visit the aircraft.
November marks a transition time for the Navy squadron as they upgrade to the larger F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. The Blue Angels will celebrate the squadron’s 75th anniversary season beginning this spring.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)